It’s a busy week on home video, with new releases ranging from a full-bore science-fiction spectacle to an intimate relationship drama.
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand
“Battleship” may have been inspired by the like-titled Hasbro game, but the movie has little in common with its toy store cousin. The game is all about strategy and deep thought while the movie is as big and dumb as blockbusters get. Oddly enough, those negatives aren’t deal breakers.
“Battleship” will never be mistaken for a “great” film, but it possesses campy, B-movie appeal bolstered by high-end special effects. Essentially, director Peter Berg (“Hancock,” “Friday Night Lights”) and screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber have taken a bunch of military clichés and inserted them into a traditional alien-invasion flick.
The focus is on Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a smart-but-cocky Naval officer who is on the verge of being ejected from the service due to lack of discipline. Alex’s girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), is frustrated by his troublemaking, especially since she’s the daughter of the United States Pacific Fleet commander (Liam Neeson). Their personal struggles are rendered meaningless when giant alien spacecraft swoop down from the sky, declare war on the U.S. Navy and ensnare the Hawaiian Islands in a force field.
The U.S. sustains severe casualties in early fighting, and it’s not long before Alex is the senior officer aboard his speedy destroyer, the U.S.S. John Paul Jones. This forces the typically irresponsible Alex to not only get serious but try and develop a plan that will lead him to victory over a technologically advanced enemy.
“Battleship” starts silly and gets goofier as it moves toward conclusion. It also plays like a Navy recruiting film, as Berg and his characters resort to blatant flag waving. These are serious flaws, but there’s something enjoyable about the movie’s unabashedly brazen tone. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, it plunges forward, insisting that viewers appreciate the spectacle, no matter how messy things get along the way.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include several making-of features focused on everything from filming on the open sea to how actors prepared for their roles.
The Lucky One
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Novelist Nicholas Sparks has a gift for creating heart-wrenching love stories that play just as well on screen as on the page. His cinematic successes include “A Walk to Remember” and “The Notebook,” and his latest effort – “The Lucky One” – taps the same emotional vein.
The movie focuses on Logan Thibault (Zac Efron), an Iraq veteran trying to understand why he lived through multiple combat tours while many around him were killed. In particular, he is haunted by one unusual incident. Seeing a photograph glinting in the morning sun, he walked over to pick it up, an act that saved him from a mortar strike.
Convinced that the young woman in the picture saved his life, Logan is determined to find her and say, “Thanks.” It’s here that the movie takes a wild leap of logic. Logan locates the girl, a beauty named Beth Clayton (Taylor Schilling), but director Scott Hicks (“No Reservations,” “Hearts In Atlantis”) fails to explain how he tracked her down. For nit-pickers, this may be enough to ruin the picture. There are, however, rewards for anyone willing to forgive the problems and simply invest in the characters.
Efron has loads of movie-star appeal, and he’s likable as a wounded man attempting to reconcile his violent past with a peaceful present. Schilling is also a winning screen presence, which is important because a connection between the two young stars is critical to the storytelling.
As likable as Efron and Schilling are, “The Lucky One” has its struggles. Sparks is sentimental and highly traditional, so it’s easy to guess where his plots are headed long before they arrive. Because of that, “The Lucky One” isn’t particularly novel, but it should satisfy anyone with a weak spot for syrupy love stories.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of featurette.
Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season
Rated TV PG
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Good TV series have advantages over movies, in that their writers and directors have hours to develop both characters and plot threads. “Once Upon a Time” creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz took full advantage of the medium with the first 22 episodes of their outstanding fairytale drama.
The series focuses on Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a young woman trying to reconnect with the son she gave up for adoption years before. In doing so, she becomes sheriff of Storybrooke, the small Maine town run by her son’s adoptive mother (Lana Parrilla). The more Emma immerses herself in town culture, the stranger the place seems, especially since the boy is convinced that most residents are actually characters from classic fairy tales.
Each episode features dual storylines, with one centered on Storybrooke and another set in a magical world populated by Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and other well-known characters. Most actors play roles in both settings and, as the series progresses, viewers learn about connections between the two worlds.
“Once Upon a Time” not only offers a refreshing and creative twist on much-loved characters, the show features an outstanding cast that drives the action forward.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, a blooper reel and several making-of features.
Think Like a Man
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug use
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
When writer and entertainer Steve Harvey wrote “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” his intention was to teach women how to create more fulfilling relationships. In the movie based on Harvey’s book, several ladies take his advice and have their lives substantially transformed.
The film walks viewers through four budding relationships, presenting the courtship stages not as romantic, but as competitions. The movie even defines the showdowns with pithy title cards that include “The Mama’s Boy Vs. the Single Mom” and “The Dreamer Vs. the Woman Who is her Own Man.”
Of course, the characters aren’t really fighting; they’re trying to manipulate each other into becoming perfect mates. This maneuvering – particularly by the female characters – is largely motivated by Harvey (playing himself) who has convinced his readers that men are easy to control. At first, his guidance works flawlessly, as all the ladies keep their men pleasantly off balance. Eventually, however, the guys realize they’ve been had, so they begin studying Harvey’s book in an effort to stay one step ahead.
“Think Like a Man” has cute moments and a terrific cast that includes Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Jenkins and Gabrielle Union. Unfortunately, the battle-of-the-sexes theme is run of the mill, and director Tim Story doesn’t do anything to freshen it up.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
Aardman Animations has delivered a nice crop of stop-motion movies over the years, but “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” doesn’t stack up, particularly when compared to “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away.” Based on books by English author Gideon Defoe, the movie focuses on Pirate Captain, an incompetent seaman who longs to win the Pirate of the Year award.
Since Pirate Captain’s crew is just as inept as he is, their chances are slim. Nevertheless, Pirate Captain tries, frequently raiding boats that hold nothing of value. During one such attack, he comes face to face with Charles Darwin, and his luck is changed.
Although Darwin has no treasure, the scientist realizes that Pirate Captain’s parrot is the last living dodo bird, and they hatch a plan to transport it to London in hopes of winning a prestigious scientific prize. The scheme is fraught with danger because English Queen Victoria is famed for her hatred of pirates.
As with all Aardman productions, “Pirates!” looks great. Unfortunately, the storytelling doesn’t keep pace. Although the setup has clever elements – including the inclusion of historic figures like Darwin and Victoria – directors Jeff Newitt and Peter Lord frequently allow the pacing to bog down. Not even the excellent voice cast, including Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven, give the project a sufficient lift. That leaves viewers with an animated pirate adventure that looks glossy and slick yet fails to set sail.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include games for kids, a filmmakers’ audio commentary and a mini movie titled “So You Want to Be a Pirate!”
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Darling Companion”: Drama about an aging woman (Diane Keaton) who mounts a frantic search for her beloved dog after her husband (Kevin Kline) loses it. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss and Ayelet Zurer also star.
“Monsieur Lazhar”: Mohamed Fellag stars as an Algerian immigrant working as the substitute teacher for a middle school class where the permanent instructor committed suicide. The Canadian drama was nominated for best foreign language film at the most recent Academy Awards. Written and directed by Philippe Falardeau.
“Homeland” – The Complete First Season: This Showtime drama focuses on a CIA officer (Claire Danes) who suspects that a celebrated Marine sergeant may have been turned against the U.S. The 12 episodes presented here earned “Homeland” the 2011 Golden Globe for best television series.
“Boardwalk Empire” – The Complete Second Season: The third season of this critically acclaimed HBO drama will debut on TV Sept. 16. That leaves fans plenty of time to reacquaint themselves with the 12 episodes on this set. The show focuses on Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a corrupt politician holding sway over Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the height of Prohibition.
“The Walking Dead” – The Complete Second Season: Continuing adventures of sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the other human survivors of a zombie apocalypse. This horror series is a breakout hit for AMC, and a third season is slated for October.
“Lonesome”: Criterion Collection release of director Paul Fejos’ 1928 film about two lonely people who make a connection at an amusement park. Although “Lonesome” is the title film, this release also includes Fejos’ 1929 drama “The Last Performance” and a reconstruction of his 1929 musical “Broadway.”
“Quadrophenia”: Music lovers may want to check out this new, director-approved edition of the The Who’s 1979 rock opera. The plot follows the escapades of a young “Mod” living in 1960s England, and the soundtrack features a number of Who classics. Directed by Franc Roddam.
Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-rays: Universal Studios’ 100th Anniversary series is delivering some of the best-loved movies of all time on stunning, high-definition Blu-ray. This week’s releases include “Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948), “Harvey” (1950), “Airport” (1970) and “Sixteen Candles” (1984).
“Looney Tunes – Mouse Chronicles”: Nineteen animated shorts by producer-animator Chuck Jones. As the title suggests, all the cartoons are focused on the adventures of Looney Tunes mice.
“Jersey Shore” – Season Five – Uncensored: Most recent season of the reality show about eight New Jersey youth living and playing together. In the episodes included here, the cast is back in the Garden State after spending Season Four in Italy.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.